Slike stranica

But what was to happen to the indigent defaulter? Nicephorus enrolled him as a soldier, compelling the same more prosperous neighbour to provide for his military equip ment by paying the sum of eighteen and a half nomismata (£11: 28.). We are not told whether this sum was regarded as a price for the land, which ought to have been transferred to the possession of the neighbour who was held responsible for it, or even whether the proprietor was compelled to sell it.

The growth of monastic property was an economic evil which was justly regarded by Nicephorus with disquietude, and he adopted the heroic measure of incorporating in the Imperial domains the better lands of some rich monasteries. We cannot doubt that the transaction took the form of, a compulsory sale, the price being fixed by the treasury; it is impossible to suppose that it was naked confiscation, which would have been alien to the methods of Roman policy. But the taxes which had been paid on the entire property continued to be exacted, according to our informant, from the diminished estates of the monks. We know too little of the conditions and provisions to enable us to pronounce whether this measure was unreasonably oppressive; but it is clear that Nicephorus was prepared to brave the odium which always descended upon the medieval statesman who set the economic interests of the State above those of its monastic parasites.


But if Nicephorus increased his domains at the expense of pious institutions, he also alienated portions of the Imperial estates, and the motives of this policy are obscure. It is

καίδεκα ἡμίσους νομισμάτων τῷ δημοσίῳ καὶ ἀλληλεγγύως τὰ δημόσια. The passage has been elucidated by Monnier (90 sqq.). Zacharia v. Lingenthal (Gr.-röm. Recht, 235 n. 763) interpreted oubxwpo as "die Besitzer von ὁμόκηνσα,” but then why not, as Monnier asks, ὁμοκήνσων The ὁμόχωρος = finitimus need not be ὁμόκηνσος. Monnier thinks that Nicephorus introduced this new principle in the application of the emißolń (a principle "which will subsequently be united to the old one of cadastral solidarity and will make the system more lenient"), in order to hit the rich neighbour, whether ouóknvoos or not; the same policy which two hundred

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recorded as a hardship that he sold Imperial lands on the coasts of Asia Minor, at a fixed price, to unwilling purchasers, who, accustomed to sea-faring and trade, knew little or nothing about agriculture. Here again we must remember that the case is presented by an enemy, and that we are ignorant of all the circumstances of the alleged coercion.

IV. In his diligent quest of ways and means, the sudden acquisition of wealth, which we might now classify under the title of unearned increment, did not escape the notice of Nicephorus as a suitable object of taxation. He imposed heavy charges upon those who could be proved to have suddenly risen from poverty to affluence through no work or merit of their own. He treated them as treasure-finders, and thus brought them under the law of Justinian by which treasure-trove was confiscated.1 The worst of this measure was that it opened a fruitful field to the activity of informers. V. Death duties were another source of revenue which claimed the Emperor's attention. The tax of 5 per cent on inheritances which had been instituted by the founder of the Empire seems to have been abolished by Justinian;2 but a duty of the same kind had been reimposed, and was extended to successions in the direct line, which had formerly been exempted. The lax government of Irene had allowed the tax to be evaded, by some at least of those who inherited property from their fathers or grandfathers; and when Nicephorus ordered that it should be exacted from all who had so inherited during the last twenty years, many poor men were in consternation.


VI. It is remarkable that a statesman possessing the financial experience of Nicephorus should have shared the ancient prejudice against usury so far as to forbid the lending of money at interest altogether. The deliverance of society from the evils attendant upon merciless usury was dearly purchased by the injury which was inflicted upon industry and trade. The enterprise of merchants who required capital was paralyzed, and Nicephorus was forced to come to their

1 Theoph. 4879. The measure was retrospective for twenty years.

2 C.I. 6, 23, 33; Monnier, xix. 83.

* Monnier, ib., has pointed out that the stress lies on the words ék xáwwwV

ἢ πατέρων in the passage of Theophanes. The words clearly imply that Nicephorus was only enforcing the payment of an old tax, which had been probably first imposed by the Heraclians or Isaurians.


rescue. He aided them in a way which was highly advantageous to the treasury. He advanced loans of twelve pounds of gold about (£518), exacting the high interest of 16 per cent.' The government was not bound by the prohibition of private usury, which it is possible that the successor of Nicephorus prudently abolished.2

VII. The custom duties, which were levied at Abydos and had been remitted by Irene in her unscrupulous desire to conciliate the favour of Constantinople, had been immediately re-enacted by her successor. Household slaves of a superior kind were among the most valuable chattels which reached the capital by the route of the Hellespont, and the treasury profited by the cooks and pages and dancers who were sold to minister to the comfort and elegance of the rich families of Byzantium. But there was also a demand for these articles of luxury among the inhabitants of the Aegean coasts and islands, who could purchase them without paying the heavy charges that were exacted in the custom-houses of Abydos. Nicephorus abolished this immunity by imposing a tax of two gold pieces (24 shillings) a head on all such slaves who were sold to the west of the Hellespont.

The chronicler Theophanes, whose hostile pen has recorded these fiscal measures, completes his picture of the Emperor's oppressions by alleging that he used to pry into men's private affairs, employing spies to watch their domestic life and encouraging ill-disposed servants to slander or betray their masters. "His cruelties to the rich, the middle class, and the poor in the Imperial city were beyond description.” In the

1 Modern commentators seemi to
have missed the point of this measure.
Monnier implies that all ναύκληροι

were forced to borrow the sum of
twelve pounds from the treasury
whether they wanted it or not. This
is incredible. The coercion consisted
in compelling them, if they wanted a
loan, to borrow a fixed sum from the
State and from no other lender; other
lenders were excluded by the law for-
bidding private usury.

2 So Monnier, xix. 89, conjectures.
Usury was again forbidden by Basil,
but Leo VI. (Nov. 83) permitted it,
with the restriction that interest
should not exceed 41 per cent.

Some duty must have been paid

to the kommerkiarioi in the ports, but it was a small onė. Slaves who were used for rough and rural work were probably, as Monnier observes, chiefly imported from the Euxine regions, by the Bosphorus. The duty on them, which would be paid at Hieron, was doubtless trifling. Justinian established the toll-house at Abydos. παραφύλαξ ἀβυδικός or simply ἀβυδικός (ἀβυδιτικός) cane to be a general tern for λιμενάρχης. See M. Goudas in Bušavrís i. 468 sqq. (1909), who cites seals of κουμερκιάριοι καὶ ἀβυδικοί of Thessalonica. ἐξαβυδίζω, to pass Abydos, was used for sailing into the Aegean; see Simeon, Cont. Georg. ed. Mur. 638.

last two years of his reign, he excited the murmurs of the inhabitants by a strict enforcement of the market dues on the sales of animals and vegetables, by quartering soldiers in monasteries and episcopal mansions, by selling for the public benefit gold and silver plate which had been dedicated in churches, by confiscating the property of wealthy patricians.' He raised the taxes paid by churches and monasteries, and he commanded officials, who had long evaded the taxation to which they were liable as citizens, to discharge the arrears which they had failed to pay during his own reign. This last order, striking the high functionaries of the Court, seemed so dangerous to Theodosius Salibaras, a patrician who had considerable influence with the Emperor, that he ventured to remonstrate. "My lord," he said, "all are crying out at us, and in the hour of temptation all will rejoice at our fall." Nicephorus is said to have made the curious reply: "If God has hardened my heart like Pharaoh's, what good can my subjects look for? Do not expect from Nicephorus save only the things which thou seest."

The laxity and indulgence which had been permitted in the financial administration of the previous reign rendered the severity of Nicephorus particularly unwelcome and unpopular. The most influential classes were hit by his strict insistence on the claims of the treasury. The monks, who suspected him of heterodoxy and received no favours at his hands, cried out against him as an oppressor. Some of his measures may have been unwise or unduly oppressive-we have not the means of criticizing them; but in his general policy he was simply discharging his duty, an unpopular duty, to the State.

Throughout the succeeding reigns we obtain no such glimpse into the details or vicissitudes of Imperial finance. If there was a temporary reaction under Michael I. against the severities of Nicephorus, the following Emperors must have drawn the reins of their financial administration sufficiently tight. After the civil war, indeed, Michael II. rewarded the provinces which had been faithful to his cause by a temporary remission of half the hearth-tax. The facts seem to show that the Amorian rulers were remarkably capable and successful in their In May A.. 811 (ib.).

' Theoph. 488-489.

finance. On one hand, there was always an ample surplus in the treasury, until Michael III. at the very end of his reign deplenished it by wanton wastefulness. On the other, no complaints are made of fiscal oppression during this period, notwithstanding the fact that the chroniclers would have rejoiced if they had had any pretext for bringing such a charge against heretics like Theophilus and his father.

If our knowledge of the ways and means by which the Imperial government raised its revenue is sadly incomplete and in many particulars conjectural, we have no information as to its amount in the ninth century, and the few definite figures which have been recorded by chance are insufficient to enable us to guess either at the income or the expenditure. It is a remarkable freak of fortune that we should possess relatively ample records of the contemporary finance of the Caliphate, and should be left entirely in the dark as to the budget of the Empire.


We have some figures bearing on the revenue in the twelfth century, and they supply a basis for a minimum. estimate of the income in the ninth, when the State was stronger and richer. We learn that Constantinople alone furnished the treasury with 7,300,000 nomismata £4,380,000, including the profits of taxation on commerce and the city markets.2 It has been supposed that the rest of the Empire contributed five times as much, so that the total revenue would be more than £26,280,000. At this period the greater part of Asia Minor was in the hands of the Seljuk Turks, while, on the other hand, the Empire possessed Bulgaria and Crete. It might therefore be argued that the Emperor Theophilus, who also held Calabria and received a certain yearly sum from Dalmatia, may have enjoyed a revenue of twenty-seven to thirty millions.

But the proportion of 1 to

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5, on which this calculation


the revenue of the whole Empire before the conquest, we get £26,280,000, a figure which agrees with the other result (but in both cases the proportions are quite problematical). Paparrhegopulos, op. cit. iv. 44 sqq.; Diehl, Etudes byzantines, 125; Andreades, loc. cit. For the whole question of the finances cp. also Kalligas, Μελέται 208 3.

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